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The Sugar-coated Poison: India’s offer of ‘help’ to restructure BDR
April 6, 2009, 9:34 am
Filed under: Bangladesh, India

The Sugar-coated Poison: India’s offer of ‘help’ to restructure BDR

Dr. K. M. A. Malik

 

Introduction

 

The Indian Border Security Force (BSF) headed by its Director General (DG), M. L. Kumawat, and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) led by its DG, Maj. Gen. Mainul Islam, had a three day ‘Border Coordination Conference’ last week (March 30-April 1, 2009) in New Delhi. This kind of conference is held more or less on yearly basis to discuss various problems along the Indo-Bangladesh border. And as usual, the BDR and BSF agreed to strengthen joint efforts for preventing trans-border crimes like illegal movements across the border, trafficking in women and children, drugs smuggling and gunrunning. The BDR chief on return home said on April 2 that both sides agreed for ‘closer cooperation’ between the two forces’ to deal with the complex range of issues on the border. He praised BSF for their professional role in maintaining peace and tranquility on the border during the recent BDR crisis [1].

 

We do not know exactly what was discussed and agreed upon in the latest meeting. Full details or records of the meeting are not available except few points on what both the BSF and BDR authorities want us to know. There lies the problem: the ordinary public in both India and Bangladesh are given only a partial picture of the situation, they are never presented with the ‘full story’. Although Bangladesh has been a victim of constant hostility and aggression along the border areas (hundreds of Bangladeshi civilians being abducted and killed by BSF every year) since its birth, its past and present rulers have never refrained from propagating the false idea that India is a ‘friendly neighbour’. Our people have been kept in the dark about the true design of BSF consistent with the policies of Indian rulers.

It has been reported that ‘the BSF chief praised Bangladesh government’s commitment not to allow use of Bangladesh territory for any activity against India [1], but it is not known if the BDR chief had also asked the Indian authorities not to allow different elements and outfits to use their territories for carrying out anti-Bangladesh activities [2]. It is also unknown if Gen. Islam has accepted the long-standing Indian allegation that the armed insurgents in India’s north east have hundreds of bases and training camps in Bangladesh and that Bangladesh security forces guided by Pakistan’s ISI provide active help to the insurgents to destabilize India. To our knowledge, this type of allegations (among many others), raised by India but denied by Bangladesh, has been a running theme in all past meetings between the two sides, especially on issues related to terrorism, security and border management.

The most significant, but not at all surprising, point is the offer of ‘Indian help’ by the BSF DG in ‘reorganizing’ BDR [3]. When asked how the Indian BSF would assist ‘reorganization’ of the BDR as reported by the Indian media, Gen. Islam said it could be through exchange of information between the two border guards. To another query about how some Indian media people had received information about the killing of BDR DG Shakeel Ahmed and other army officers on February 25-26 before the news broke out in Dhaka, the General said that ‘it was the responsibility of the Indian media to explain how they had received the information’ [1]. This was most probably not to imply that some Indian agents or pro-Indian sources were active inside Peelkhana or monitoring the tragic event from a very close distance from the very beginning of the tragedy. Such an implication, obviously, would have highly embarrassed the ‘friendly hosts’.

Awami League leaders linked with BDR Massacre?

It is now about 5-6 weeks that the Peelkhana massacre was perpetrated by the enemies of Bangladesh and her people. The ‘India-friendly’ government of Sheikh Hasina initially promised to find out the culprits within one week but nothing significant (apart from taking about 800 BDR soldiers in detention) has happened. The prime minister as well as her several cabinet colleagues have been blaming the ‘Islamic militants or (Jongis), opposing political parties and leaders as possible perpetrators even when the enquiries by government agencies and army are in progress. Obviously they have taken cue from the Indian propagandists linked with R&AW and are trying to divert public attention from the ‘real directors’ of the tragic drama. It has been already reported in the media that some Awami League leaders had prior contacts with some of the leaders of the BDR rebels and that they might have been involved in the conspiracy. According to a report in the American Chronicle, names of a number of leaders belonging to Sheikh Hasina’s party and supporters such as Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, Mirza Azam, Jahangir Kabir Nanak, Barrister Fazle Noor Taposh, Hasanul Huq Inu, Rahsed Khan Menon, Abdul Jalil, Liakot Sikder, Sajeda Chowdhury, Joinal Hazari, Haji Mockbul, Shamim Osman, Abul Hasnat Abdullah, Pankaj Deb Nath, Bahauddin Nasim are already in the list of suspects in the BDR massacre case [4]. Instead of advising the civil and military investigators to question these and all other probable suspects outside the BDR forces, the prime minister and her commerce minister Faruk Khan who is ‘coordinating’ the enquiries are both saying different things on different occasions. Doubts are already being raised about the true motives of the government and if the results of the investigations would be published at all. The reason is that the government is trying to ‘discover’ a Jongi-Jamat-Pakistani link with the Peelkhana Massacre at the exclusion of any probable Indian link. If the first link cannot be established beyond doubt or if any Grand Alliance-Indian link is discovered, then one can rest assured that the investigations results would never be published.

Silence of the army chief

The government has shown utter incompetence and naivety in dealing with the Peelkhana crisis and its aftermath. They are playing dirty politics with the national tragedy. Surprisingly, the very talkative (and India-friendly) army chief, General Moeen, who played crucial role in bringing Sheikh Hasina back to power, has remained conspicuously silent since the Peelkhana massacre. Ordinary soldiers and most officers of the armed forces are blaming the army chief as well as the prime minister for ‘negligence’ of duty and their failure to respond in time to the SOS call from General Shakil before he and other army officers were gunned down on February 25.

During the last 2 years, Gen. Moeen has spent too much time in trying to restructure the country’s politics and publishing books rather than concentrating on the defence and security aspects of the state. At the present time he is allegedly interested more in getting another year’s extension to his service as army chief than in finding out the actual planners and instigators (foreign and local) of the Peelkana Massacre. Deaths of about ten BDR rebel soldiers while in custody for questioning and of the Imam of the Peelkhana Mosque seem to be ‘too many’ for accepting them as ‘natural’ and questions are being raised if these deaths are due to torture for extracting confession or to eliminate ‘wrong’ witnesses. It is very sad that all our institutions have become suspects in public eyes mainly because of the lack of transparency in the activities of our leaders.

It is no secret that Sheikh Hasina and her foreign mentors are implementing a controversial and highly disastrous ‘restructuring programme’ of the armed forces and intelligence agencies, and that Gen. Moeen is a partner in the process. The ‘restructuring programme’ involves the retirement and removal of officers allegedly sympathetic to BNP/Jamat or linked with ISI/Islamic terrorists. Sheikh Hasina’s controversial son, Sajib Wajed Joy, who lives in the USA and also claims to be the prime minister’s adviser, has openly argued that Bangladesh army is riddled with ‘Islamic fundamentalists’ and that it should be remodeled by recruiting members from the ‘secularist’ forces [5]. This essentially means that the armed forces must conform to the so-called pro-Awami League and pro Indian policies, even if these policies are detrimental to Bangladesh ’s security and national interests.

Restructuring of BDR with India ’s ‘help’?

Let us return to the question of India ’s ‘help’ in restructuring BDR. It is true that BDR rebellion on February 25-26 and the associated tragedy have exposed the vulnerability of the country’s border defence forces in particular and the armed forces in general. It is also very clear that something went wrong somewhere and it is absolutely important that existing deficiencies within these and intelligence agencies are pinpointed and remedial measures implemented for the sake of the country’s security and defence.

The new BDR DG has spoken about the need for restructuring and remodeling the border security force including the change of its name from Bangladesh Rifles to something different. Different people may have different views about the change of name but considering the nature and ferocity of the rebellion and the large number of active participants in the heinous crime within Peelkhana as well as desertion from duties by large number of soldiers at many border posts require that the rebels and their sympathizers should be excluded from the new force. BDR soldiers who did not rebel or were not associated with the rebels should not be punished by early retirement or by other means. New members should be recruited on the basis of traditional recruitment rules and not based on the so-called ‘secularist’ criteria as proposed by Mr. Sajib Wajed Joy. Of course, the matter relates to the defence forces and appropriate decisions should be taken on the basis of our own experts from the armed forces.

Bangladesh authorities should reject the so-called offer of help by India to reorganize BDR, since whatever may be the PR campaign, R&AW and/or another secret arm of Indian defence forces are widely suspected as the planner and instigator of the Peelkhana Massacre. Different pro-Indian people have tried to link the JMB-type ‘Islamic’ terrorist groups to the massacre, but investigations carried so far have not found any evidence for such a link. On the contrary, some of those arrested and/or suspected to be involved in the conspiracy belong to the Awami League and their allied groups [4]. Many of these elements, previously accused of toll-collection, smuggling, terrorism, murder, arson and other serious crimes, fled the country after 2001 when the BNP-led government came to power and were sheltered by India. Kolkata and some districts in West Bengal became a haven for these criminals. Many Awami League leaders including Nanak and Mirza Azam also fled the country and lived in India during the military-backed Fakhruddin government. It is highly probable that some of these elements were groomed by R&AW to act as their operatives in Bangladesh . It is very hard to prove these accusations with documentary evidence, but it is widely believed that the R&AW network in Bangladesh (and other neighbouring countries) is widespread incorporating elements within political, academic, legal, media, cultural, NGO, business and religious (including JMB) organizations. It is also highly probable that the civil administration, military and BDR forces and intelligence agencies have long been infiltrated by R&AW agents.

Considering the long-standing record of anti-Bangladesh, anti-Muslim covert and overt actions by India on different fronts, it would be foolish to accept India ’s offer of help to reorganize and restructure BDR. India has never wanted a sovereign Bangladesh with relatively strong and credible border and defence forces that, at least, can thwart all aggressive foreign designs; it wants a subservient neighbour with only a nominal defence capability, which can be blackmailed and kept under Delhi ’s hegemony.

Indian rulers often remind us of their help in Bangladesh Independence Struggle in 1971. We have never denied their help, especially the help provided by the Indian people in sheltering and feeding millions of refugees who were forced to cross over the border due to the barbarity of the Pakistani occupation forces. But the help provided by the Indian government and its armed forces was not that benign or one-sided. India ’s main purpose was to dismember and weaken Pakistan , its arch-enemy since 1947 and the main obstacle in realizing its geo-strategic aim of establishing itself as the undisputed leader in South Asia and Indian Ocean regions [6]. And India , indeed, has succeeded, to a great extent, to fulfill its strategic aims to get a ‘great power’ status. Nobody should ignore the break-up of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh as a contributing factor to India ’s self-confidence and gradual rise as a significant economic and military power.

Tajuddin Ahmad’s seven-point secret agreement

That Indian rulers did not want a fully independent and sovereign Bangladesh, but a client state under its hegemony, from the very beginning was made clear in a less publicized seven-point document which Mr.. Tajuddin Ahmad, the prime minister of the Bangladesh government-in-exile in India in 1971, was obliged to sign as a condition for India’s direct military campaign in Bangladesh accelerate the defeat and surrender of the Pakistani occupation forces and to install a puppet government in power.

The seven-point document referred to above reads as follows [7]:

(1)    A para-military armed force for Bangladesh will be raised under supervision of the Indian military experts; this force shall be stronger and more active than the regular armed forces of Bangladesh .

(2)    Bangladesh shall procure all military equipment from India and under planned supervision of the Indian military experts.

(3)    Bangladesh shall direct her foreign trade under supervision and control of the Indian government.

(4)    Yearly and five-yearly development plans for Bangladesh shall conform to Indian development plans.

(5)    Foreign policy of Bangladesh must be compatible with and conform to that of India .

(6)    Bangladesh shall not unilaterally rescind any of the treaties without prior approval of the Indian government.

(7)    In accordance with the treaties signed before December (1971) war of Pakistan and India , Indian force shall enter into Bangladesjh at any time and shall crush any resistance that may erupt there.


The above document should act as an eye-opener for all Bangladeshi citizens since it reveals the true nature of Indian ‘friendship and help’ towards Bangladesh and her people, right from the beginning of the liberation struggle. And there is no evidence to suggest that the India ’s mindset has changed even after 38 years to accept and respect Bangladesh ’s legitimate rights as a fully sovereign state.

Conclusion

The ‘India-friendly’ Hasina government, her top advisers, top military leaders and civil bureaucrats should remember that the people of Bangladesh have never wished to surrender to the dictates from Delhi and they will never do so without a fight. The present government has an overwhelming majority in the parliament, but they must not go against the collective will of our people and make our border and armed forces dependent on India ’s ‘help’. Any attempt to reduce the strength and status of our armed forces or the border security forces to the status of ‘Rakkhi Bahini’ under Indian advisers (as was done during 1972-75 during the first Awami League government) would have disastrous consequences for both the government and the country.

Notes and references:

[1] http://www.newagebd.com/2009/apr/03/front.html

[2] For detailed discussions on the Indo-Bangladesh border problems and BSF aggression (including Indira-Mujib Border Agreement (1974), please refer to the series of highly informative and analytical essays written by some prominent experts from Bangladesh and India and published in Bangladesh Defence Journal, September 2008, pp. 14-55.

[3] The topic was initially carried in the April 2 (2009) issues of only two (out of several dozens) daily newspapers in Dhaka : Prothom Alo (http://www.prothom-alo.com/archive/news_details_home.php?dt=2009-04-02&issue_id=1237&nid=MjI5MjY) and Naya Diganta (http://www.dailynayadiganta.com/2009/04/02/fullnews.asp?News_ID=137425&sec=1).

[4] http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/96992

[5] http://www.harvardir.org/index.php?page=article&id=1784&p=1

[6] This point is also confirmed by the Indian diplomat and writer, Mr. J. N. Dixit, in his comment, “Our political establishment, the media and academics are quite clear that India got involved in the Bangladesh liberation movement not only on the basis of human and political justification of the cause but also for meeting India’s own political and strategic interests (J. N. Dixit, Liberation and Beyond, The University Press Ltd, Dhaka, 1999, p. 270).

[7] Oli Ahad, Jatio Rajniti (1945 to 1975), 2nd Ed. , Bangladesh Cooperative Book Society, Dhaka , p. 450. It is also said that Tajuddin Ahmad signed this infamous instrument for surrender to Indian hegemony against his will and that he fainted after he put his signature on the document.

( Cardiff , April 4, 2009)

Dr. K. M. A. Malik is a former Professor of Chemistry, Dhaka University , and a Lecturer in Chemistry, Cardiff University (UK). He has published about 370 research papers in chemistry journals. As a freelance columnist, he also writes regularly on contemporary political and social issues. His published books include: Challenges in Bangladesh Politics – a Londoner’s view (2005); War on Terror – A pretext for new colonisation (2005), and Bangladesher Rajniti – Mookh O Mookhosh (2003).. His e-mail contact: kmamalik@aol.com

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